How to Create a Walking Animation of a Dog using Inkscape
This tutorial will show you step by step how to create a walking animation for a four legged animal using Inkscape. I will animate a dog in this tutorial. If you don't have the money to pay for or don't want to use Spriter, Spine, or any other dedicated animation software, then using Inkscape is a good option. However, using dedicated animation software instead will give you an animation that is a lot nicer looking.
In the end, our animation created using Inkscape will look like this:
There are four steps to creating the animation: 1) Draw outlines for all the major body parts 2) Blend each body part with the next. 3) Fill in the details for each body part. 4) Start animating.
Step 1: Draw outlines for all the major body parts
The major body parts are the: head, neck, torso, tail, upper arm, lower arm, hand, upper leg, lower leg, and foot. Create a separate object for each. We only need to draw the upper arm, lower arm, and hand for the arm that is closest to our view. Same thing with the leg. When we are done filling the details of this arm and leg, we can simply duplicate them to get our second arm and leg in the later steps. Again, we need to create a separate object for each of the parts I listed above. The reason for this is it will be easier and faster to animate the character with the body parts separated as different objects. At the end of this step, you should have something like the image below:
The neck is behind head and torso and the tail is behind the torso but behind those parts they should look like this:
As you can see, the neck extends fairly deep into the head and fairly deep into the torso. The tail also extends fairly deep into the torso. The reason for this is so when we rotate the head up for example, we won't see a gap between the neck and the head.
Step 2: Blend each body part with the next
We want to make a smooth transition from one body part to the next so it looks natural. For example, take a look at the transition from torso to neck below:
To create this smooth transition, select the torso, duplicate it, and keep it in place. Then select the duplicated torso, remove the stroke (outline) for the torso, and change the fill of the torso so that it has a different color from the original torso. Now with this torso still selected, go to Path>Dynamic Offset. At this point you should have something like this:
Now we have a copy of the torso on top of the original torso. We removed the stroke of the copy and we also changed the color to another color. We are going to use this to cover up the stroke in the transition from torso to neck. To do this, click the diamond, hold mouse and move the mouse inward until the red torso is no longer touching the stroke of the bottom torso. You should now have something like this:
Now use the node tool to cover up the stroke where the neck and torso meet but leave the stroke near the edge visible:
Change the color back to the original torso color and now we have a nice natural looking transition from torso to neck:
Do this for all the other body part transitions and at the end of this step you should have something like this:
For some of the transitions, I only covered up the stroke halfway. The head to neck transition for example.
Step 3: Fill in the details of each body part
Start filling in the details of the body parts so that you have a nice detailed looking dog. Remember again that each major body part and everything inside it needs to be a separate object. For example, the head, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth need to be grouped together to form one object(the head). Specifically, we need an object for the head, neck, torso, tail, upper arm, lower arm, hand, upper leg, lower leg, foot. After step three, you should have something like this:
I only added extra detail to the head, but you can add detail to the torso, arms, or whatever body part you want. Note that for the arm and leg I made a copy of each giving me the second arm and leg which I placed behind the torso.
Step 4: Create the walk animation
There are four frames in the walk animation (you can add more if you want a smoother looking animation). What you need to do is create four layers, one layer for each frame in the animation. This is what your layer list should look like:
By creating a layer for each frame in the walk animation, we can work on the current frame but still be able to see the previous frame slightly so that we can position our body parts relative to where they are in the previous frame. To achieve this, we just need to reduce the opacity of the previous frame's layer. For now make sure to close the lock and close the eye of all the other layers besides the "walk frame 1" layer.
Lets start by working on the first frame of the animation. Select the dog and move it to the "walk frame 1" layer. Now we want to only work on this layer, so in the layer tab, make sure the eye is closed and the lock is locked for all the other layers. For the "walk frame 1" layer, make sure the eye is open (so you can see the layer) and the lock is open (so you can edit whatever is in the layer). We are now ready to work on frame one of the animation. You need to re position the body parts of the dog so that it looks like the image on the right (this is one extreme of the walk animation):
We can easily do this because we have separated the body parts that need to be rotated. For example, to get the dog's left arm in the position we want. We would first group all three parts (upper arm, lower arm, hand) into one object. Then we set the rotation point to a point near the top middle of the upper arm and we rotate the whole arm counter clock wise. This will put the upper arm in the correct position. Now ungroup the arm, select the lower arm and the hand, and group the two together. Next, set the rotation point of this grouped object to a point near the top middle part of the lower arm and rotate it counter clockwise by a little bit. The lower arm is now in the right position. Now ungroup the lower arm and hand, and select the hand. Set the rotation point to a point near the top middle of the hand (the joint of the hand) and rotate it counter clockwise. The hand is now in the correct position. The process is similar for all the other limbs. Again, after rotating the body parts, our dog should now look like this:
Frame one of the animation is done. Next, make a copy of the dog, select the new copy and send it to the "walk frame 2" layer. Before we go to this new layer, set the opacity of the "walk frame 1" layer to about 20% so that we can barely see it. Next, lock the lock next to the "walk frame 1" layer in the layers window. This will lock the layer so that we can't edit it. Keep the eye open though so that we can still see it. Now select the "walk frame 2" layer in the layers window and click the eye (so we can see this layer), and unlock the lock (so we can edit the layer). Now we can see and edit frame two of the animation. Adjust the body parts in this new frame and try to end up with something like this:
Frame two of the animation is done. Now in the layer window, hide layer one so we don't see that layer anyone. Select the dog in layer two, make a copy of it, and send it to layer three. Now set layer two's opacity to about 20% and lock this layer. Enable viewing and editing of layer three so that we can work on frame three of the animation. Adjust the body parts and you should end up with something like this:
This is frame three of the animation. Next, select the dog, make a copy of it and send it to the "walk frame 4" layer. Now in the layer window, close the eye next to the "walk frame 2" layer so we don't see that layer anymore. Now set the opacity of the "walk frame 3" layer to about 20% and lock the layer. Now enable viewing and editing of the "walk frame 4" layer so that we can work on frame 4 of the animation. Now adjust the body parts of the dog in layer four so that we get something like this:
We are done with frame 4 of the animation. At this point we have all four frames of the walking animation. We are done and all that is left to do is for you to go through each layer one at a time (keep the layers besides the current layer locked and hidden), set the opacity of that layer back to 100%, select the dog in that layer, and export it as png, jpg, or whatever format you choose. Once you have exported every frame of your animation, take the files and run them in your favorite animation program.